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Recently I noticed, via central admin, that our User Profile Synchronization Service is stopped. User Profile Service, however, is started.

It's been like that for almost one month now and new AD entries are still being synced. As far as I understand, the UPSS is the one supposed to sync with AD, right?

What am I missing here?

Thanks in advance.

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To avoid this confusion, let's elaborate the main difference between User Profile Service and User Profile Synchronization service.

User Profile Service:

This service is used to import the users from AD it's one-way sync direction from AD to SharePoint, So if you update any user information from SharePoint it will not be synced to AD.

User Profile Synchronization service:

This service is two-way sync direction from AD to Sharepoint and vise verse. it provides a reliable way to synchronize groups and user profile information that is stored in the SharePoint Server 2013 profile database together with information that is stored in directory services across the enterprise.

So in your case, the users have been imported from AD to SharePoint because the User Profile Service is started and running.

For more details check Overview of the User Profile service application in SharePoint Server 2010

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    Thanks for your answer. Would this be valid for SP2010 too? – ranbo May 15 '17 at 13:09
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    You are welcome :) , yes it's valid for 2010 meanwhile I have update the answer with link for 2010 – Mohamed El-Qassas MVP May 15 '17 at 13:11
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    Say I want to centralize everything in AD: groups, updates, fields, whatever. I have no intention of changing anything in AD via SharePoint. Using only the User Profile Service would be a good way to go? Thanks again. – ranbo May 15 '17 at 13:16
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    Sure this is the main aim of User Profile Service is to import the users from AD. and it's optional to configure profile synchronization if you want to synchronize user and group profile information that is stored in the SharePoint Server profile database with profile information that is stored in a directory service – Mohamed El-Qassas MVP May 15 '17 at 13:45
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    Funny thing. After further looking into the problem, I found out that the users were actually not being synced. I couldn't even configure sync connections because the service was stopped. Then I checked my UAT environment where the service is started and it had 30% + user profiles. I managed to fix this and everything is working now, but I still don't get how new people were being able to authenticate before the fix. The last sync was in 2015! – ranbo May 26 '17 at 12:01
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Yes you are correct UPSS is the one who sync with AD. But make sure your FIM is running if yes then you will be able to sync AD contact. for more dig into this please check MIISCLIENT.MSC this will show you the detail of sync. also there are three options

Use SharePoint Profile Synchronization
Use SharePoint Active Directory Import
Enable External Identity Manager

If you selected Use SharePoint Active Directory Import then it wont depend UPSS

You can verify it under CA>Manage Service Application> User profile Service>Configure Synchronization Settings.

Use SharePoint Profile Synchronization have dependency on UPSS this helps to manager mysite and REST API

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